DOD seeks to exploit intelligence

'If you are not on a net, you're not benefiting. ... You're not a part of the Information Age. You're gone.'

'Retired Vice Adm. Arthur K. Cebrowski

J. Adam Fenster

Brass analyze how data can better aid warriors

'Pain and duress.' Surely that's what Iraqi forces felt under the weight of the U.S. offensive in the recent war. But the phrase, along with 'tortured,' also applies to the difficulty U.S. forces faced in achieving interoperability of IT systems.

Arthur K. Cebrowski, the retired vice admiral who heads the Defense Department's Office of Force Transformation, used those words in describing the advances made in Iraq and the lessons learned from the nation's first truly network-centric war.

The lessons learned, which DOD officials have mostly refused to discuss, will no doubt play a role in the next phase.

Last week, DOD wrapped up Operation Iraqi Freedom and began a follow-up effort dubbed Operation Desert Scorpion.

A chief goal of the mission, according to a statement released last week by the Central Command, is the capture of resisters operating within Iraq who have killed several U.S. soldiers over the past weeks.

'IT is used in the detection, analysis, intelligence distribution, planning and reaction to the threats,' said Defense Information Systems Agency chief technology officer Dawn Meyerriecks.

Desert Scorpion will consist of 'highly coordinated, intelligence-driven' raids by the Army 3rd and 4th infantry divisions, the 101st Airborne Division, and the 2nd and 3rd armored cavalry regiments, 5th Corps spokesman Army Sgt. 1st Class Brian Thomas said last week on

'These targets are not arbitrary. These are places where we've been shot at, ambushed from, and we have tracked the actions to these people,' Thomas said. The raids, searching for Baath Party loyalists, include air power and Special Operations Forces, he said.

As during the war, the Army teams leading Desert Scorpion must rely on the tactical communications systems in the field to gather intelligence and identify likely targets. That will require some cross-systems efforts and merging information from multiple sources that currently don't share data.

Over the long haul, however, interoperability will not remain the focus of military technology, Cebrowski said. The military must now move towards interdependence.

'Networked forces outfight nonnetworked forces. There's lots of empirical data on this,' Cebrowski said. 'If you are not on a net, you're not benefiting. You're not controlling. You're not a part of the Information Age. You're gone.'

Cebrowski's first lesson from Iraq is that the rules of war have changed from hoarding to sharing intelligence, but technology is racing ahead of the rules.

'There's a lot of chafing as these rule sets change,' he said.

Future wars will rely more on intelligence and surveillance for joint operations, Cebrowski said. But, he added, the military must gain better control of the intelligence data gleaned from the war.

'The problem was an explosion of data,' he said of Iraqi Freedom. 'We have marvelous growth in collection, but a relatively slow growth in analysis exploitation. Every intelligence agency I visited [said], 'We could do so much more if we could only achieve horizontal integration.' '

'Your principal weapons against weapons of mass destruction are intelligence and surveillance,' he said. 'If we do not have a networked force structure based on intelligence and surveillance, are we going to be capable of dealing with this kind of enemy?'

Dense links

Cebrowski predicted that future conflicts would see 'an escalating requirement for unambiguous warning' which will put more pressure on intelligence agencies.

A second lesson, Cebrowski said, is that the Cold War strategies of containment and mutually assured destruction are giving way to 'vertical shocks' followed by 'horizontal tails,' such as the security mania following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Advanced nations have developed 'interdependencies and interrelationships so dense' that those links can cross political, cultural, economic and security boundaries, he said.

Individuals, organizations and nations that reject such cross-boundary relationships are likely to become the foes that DOD will face in future conflicts, he said.

Speaking last month before the Heritage Foundation of Washington and on June 13 at the Fort Myers Officers Club, Cebrowski predicted the U.S. military would become more expeditionary, like Special Operations Forces, as well as more networked.

'The real fight is a close-in sensor fight' with fused intelligence and surveillance products that reduce the number of steps and time between identifying a target and attacking it, he said.

He added that network users in Iraq'soldiers and Marines'didn't complain of having too much network and not enough ordnance. 'Instead, we saw them very happy to have boom mikes sticking out from underneath their helmets because it would enable tactics they couldn't do before.'

Still, soldiers on the ground need to be better connected in the future, he added.

'People at the bottom, the tactical level, that's the only place where mortal danger lurks, and they are the least well-connected,' Cebrowski said. 'We're doing C4I for the admiral and the general. We have a moral obligation to fix this.'

Shared awareness

The shortness of the Iraq war, he said, demonstrated 'the power of shared awareness. We saw speed.' Vehicle engines didn't run any faster, but information flow kept them on the right path. 'We had some cases where land forces seemed to be running at such a pace that they were actually taxing air power to keep up.'

Cebrowski said a few developments he hoped for in Iraq did not take place. For instance, the logistics systems that kept troops supplied did not operate across the services, and intelligence was not available to all those who needed it from a centralized source.

'We did see a logistics miracle, but we didn't see a single, integrated logistics system based on new methodologies,' Cebrowski said. Nor did intelligence flow as he expected. Sources 'produced their reports and fed databases, all of which are stovepiped. Essentially we have an intelligence community that is organized by wavelength.'

Cebrowski called for mediation layers that could not only pull together intelligence data but also plot it geospatially and generate fast visualizations for senior leaders. He said such a prototype exists at the Army Intelligence and Security Command at Fort Belvoir, Va.

He said unmanned aerial vehicles proved their worth in Iraq and are evolving into combat UAVs such as the X-45. Eventually, he said, the military must eliminate its structural and process lines, fusing into a self-synchronizing force.

Stay Connected

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.